Giving – A simple gesture of hope

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Serving others is a foundational principal of the Christian faith. Society is filled with fellow human beings who give of themselves without cease, working in difficult situations to maintain our standards of living. Yet, many times they go unnoticed, while pursuing human dignity in hard work. They often seek no form of thanksgiving in return for their labor.

Thus the last will be first and the first will be last (Mt 20:16).

Preoccupied, the woman pulls open the dark brown door of her home, while thinking of all the running around that she must do, as she grabs her purse and a long list of to-do’s. Today – errand day – begins a long day of buying groceries, attending to the needs of her children, her husband, and general household chores. The hot breath of the midday brooding sun brushes past the woman as she walks to her vehicle parked in the driveway. The inside temperature of the vehicle exceeds 120 degrees. This time of year, with no breeze in the air and 98% humidity, has a burdening effect on both humans and animals alike. The high exterior temperatures make it far too hot for either man or beast to be exposed outdoors.

Looking in the rear-view mirror, the woman is quietly thankful for a working air conditioner in the large, white sports utility vehicle (SUV), while she backs out of the driveway. As she drives, the woman can see the receding picture of her middle class suburban home, with its plush green lawn, pink crepe myrtles, and a large live oak tree that casts a welcome shade onto the house and helps to keep the cooling bill down. Turning her head to look at the passenger seat for the to-do list, the woman notices, as she passes, a midnight-blue waste management truck parked on the left side of the street.The workers, two men and one woman, seem to be trying to recover from the oppressive heat by standing underneath the canopy of a neighbor’s large crepe myrtle trees, all heavy with purple blooms. Each of their sturdy builds, arising in part from a life of hard physical labor, is shrouded in a medium-blue uniform shirt that is soaked through with perspiration. The female worker stands on the side of the road, wringing a wet ice-cold towel over her head, in a feeble attempt to cool down. 

Seeing the overheated laborers, the woman recalls without fail the childhood words of her beloved, though long-deceased, grandmother: “We need to look out for the workers that nobody else looks out for.”

Knowing that she cannot just drive past, pretending they are not there, this particular memory spurs the woman into action. Turning the SUV around in another neighbor’s freshly pressure-washed concrete driveway, she decides to return home and driving down the street, she can see a mirage rising up from the road, caused by the pounding of the hot sun. Back in the driveway of her own home, the woman feels the heat rising through her sandals as she walks on the front sidewalk. She flings open the front door of her brick home and hurries through the kitchen to find the refrigerator and the freezer, all the while thinking, What can I give these poor people to help them in that horrible heat? Rummaging though the jet-black appliances, the woman manages to find three bottles of ice-cold water, a box of frozen fruit bars, and some ice-cream bars. Excellent! she thinks. These will do just fine. 

Hurrying back to the vehicle, the woman proceeds to drive back to the shady spot where she had seen the workers and parks the SUV right next to the waste management truck. The three workers seem rather startled to see a woman from the neighborhood approaching them without hesitation. It is obvious that they had not been used to being noticed in this way – or, perhaps, they feel they are about to be confronted for having sought much-needed relief by standing in a neighbor’s yard. Either way, the workers appear to be quite nervous.

“Hi, it is so hot, today!” the woman commences, trying to be as pleasant as possible. “Are y’all okay?”

“Yes, ma’am,” one of the male workers replies. “It is real hot, today. We’re doing good. Can we help you?”

“No, I’m good, thank you,” says the woman. “I was thinking, y’all might like something to help you cool down? Is that okay?” she inquires with concern.

Still not sure what to think and greatly surprised, the female worker replies, “Um, yes, ma’am. That would be great! That’s real nice of you.”

“I brought y’all some ice-cold water, frozen fruit pops, and cups of ice-cream. Will that work?” asks the woman.

The three workers continue standing in the shade – this time, however, in a moment of stunned silence. After pausing for a while to think about what it could all mean, they then start thanking the woman profusely, in unison, for her kindness.

“Oh, my gosh, ma’am! We don’t know what to say! You don’t have to do that. Thank you, thank you!”

The woman smiles and responds, “You don’t need to say anything. I want to do this for you. Thank you for all you do. Take care.”

And returning to the SUV, she gets back on track with her errands, while thanking her grandmother in the silence of her heart for the former’s great words of wisdom.

God is good.

And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for me’ (Mt 25:40).